SCOTUS: Religious Liberty Win for Conestoga Wood Specialties
Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court protected Conestoga Wood Specialties’ religious freedom to not provide contraceptives in employee insurance policies.
The Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) does not permit “the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to demand that … corporations provide health-insurance coverage for methods of contraception that violate the sincerely held religious beliefs of the companies’ owners,” said Justice Samuel Alito.
Conestoga Wood Specialties is an East Earl, Pennsylvania cabinet company owned entirely by Mennonites who religiously object to contraceptives.
“When the decision came there was applause. There were ‘Thank you, Lords’ in the room, and eventually the whole group of us stopped and prayed,” said Conestoga Wood Attorney Randy Wenger, of Pennsylvania Family Institute and formerly of Clymer Musser & Conrad, P.C.
“The announcement provides what we had hoped,” Wenger said. “There are limits on government power. There’s limits on the government’s ability to ask people to violate their sincerely held religious beliefs. The practical take-away from this is you don’t have to cede your religious liberties in order to run a business.”
Clymer Musser & Conrad, P.C. Attorney Emily Bell also served Conestoga Wood as amicus counsel for Breast Cancer Prevention Institute, Coalition on Abortion/Breast Cancer, and Polycarp Research Institute in the Third Circuit Court of Appeals.
Some claimed that the Affordable Care Act does not impose a significant burden on Conestoga Wood’s religious liberty.
But the Court strongly held otherwise: “The owners of the businesses have religious objections to abortion, and according to their religious beliefs the four contraceptive methods at issue are abortifacients. If the owners comply with the HHS mandate, they believe they will be facilitating abortions, and if they do not comply, they will pay a very heavy price—as much as $1.3 million per day, or about $475 million per year, in the case of one of the companies. If these consequences do not amount to a substantial burden, it is hard to see what would.”
The Court explained that the HHS mandate does not promote its interest in the least restrictive manner, “HHS has not shown that it lacks other means of achieving its desired goal without imposing a substantial burden on the exercise of religion by the objecting parties in these cases.”
The Court concluded its opinion saying, “Our responsibility is to enforce RFRA as written, and under the standard that RFRA prescribes, the HHS contraceptive mandate is unlawful.”
Photo credit TexasGOPVote.com.